Saturday, March 22, 2014

RMIT YA teaching - weeks 4&5 - Voice and Place


On Week Four we concentrated on Voice and Point of View.

How do you find your voice?  The only answer I for this is that the more you write the more clear your voice will become. As an exercise we took the beginnings of two novels: Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett (third person) and Looking for Alaska by John Green (first person). The exercise was to rewrite the scene using a different perspective. Sometimes starting with someone else's voice can be a good way of finding your own, finding what feels comfortable and natural to write. If it feels natural for you to write it chances are it will feel natural to read it.

Writing Exercise:
Get a fortune cookie. Eat it (optional) Imagine your character has received this fortune - what is their reaction? Do they think it's stupid or significant? Does it make them hope about a certain aspect of their life?

Meg Rosoff on Finding your voice:

Psychic Distance: What it is and how to use it - by Emma Darwin

And also from Emma Darwin, 19 Questions to ask about voice:

Essay: From Long Shots to X-Rays: Distance and Point of View in Fiction Writing by David Jauss

How world view affects your characters by Ruby Johnson

Our handout was the pages from the first two chapters of Fiona Wood's Wildlife - a novel written with two very different teen female voices. You can read this extract here.

Week Five we talked about Place/Setting. We went around the room asking Where is your novel set - time and place. How important is it to know? I think Place is hugely important. Place defines character. For each of my novels I have, for prep-work, drawn maps of the world, I find that in the early stages of writing having a spatial awareness of the physical world can inform the narrative and in some cases be used as a springboard to story.

Setting can be as detailed as character. It includes but is not limited to locale (sea/space/woods/city/country), climate, objects (props), culture, geography etc ... our aim is to make whatever we are writing to seem real.

For those writing fantasy/speculative fiction I recommend checking out Patricia Wrede's World Building Rules.

The list is huge and may not all be relevant to what you'er writing, but I think they are worth investigating for writers of realistic fiction as well. Whatever you're writing, you are in fact 'building a world'. And Place is subjective: Charles Dickens London is not going to be the same as your character's London.

Eudora Welty essay on place in fiction.

Being shown how to locate, to place, any account is what does most toward making us believe it, not merely allowing us to, may the account be the facts or a lie; and chat is where place in fiction comes in. Fiction is a lie. Never in its inside thoughts, always in its outside dress.

And from John Gardner: 
"Setting is one of the most powerful symbols you have, but mainly it serves characterization. The first thing that makes a reader read a book is the characters. Say you're standing in a train station, or an airport, and you're leafing through books; what you're hoping for is a book where you'll like the characters, where the characters are interesting. To establish powerful characters, a writer needs a landscape to help define them; so setting becomes important." Source

Writing Exercise: Draw a map of your childhood world - go into detail, use symbols, arrows, connections, whatever it takes. Now free-write some memories connected to the physical world. Choose a memory or description that stands out for you and use it as a starting point for a longer piece of writing.

The reading for this week was the opening pages of Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone. What does the author do to convey setting? (You can find these pages here)

No comments:

Post a Comment